Lifestyle changes that will boost your mental health

When we seek help for a mental health condition, we can expect to hear about various medications and treatment options, but what’s often missing from the conversation is any talk of lifestyle changes. 


It’s an oversight because lifestyle changes to things as simple as nutrition and exercise can have a significant impact on the quality of life, for any of us, but especially for those dealing with issues such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. They can also help minimize the development of risk factors that can lead to conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension, all of which are seen at higher rates in those with mental illness. 


If anyone is dealing with a mental health challenge, take the initiative when speaking to your doctor. Ask for the specifics on what changes can safely be made in your daily life to improve your mental health. There isn’t any single answer or a simple one either but changes in your lifestyle can benefit you truly. 


One example is changes in your diet. Research has shown that our diet can influence our mental health, for both good and bad. Fruits and vegetables are associated with better mental well-being, and according to research from the University of Warwick. It is important because mental well-being, feelings of optimism, happiness, self-esteem and resilience can not only help protect against mental health problems and physical ones as well.


Work on making exercise a priority. Physical activity has been shown to have significant benefits for those dealing with mental health issues. A Southern Methodist University study labeled exercise a magic drug for those with anxiety and depression disorders Research shows even low levels of activity such as walking or gardening for half an hour a day can help to ward off depression now and even later in life. Exercise has also been shown to improve the mental and physical health of those with schizophrenia. 


Practicing any techniques to reduce stress. Stress tends to feed off of mental illnesses, and mental illness feeds stress. Taking steps to minimize the stress in your life can help slow down this vicious cycle. Consider adopting techniques such as mindfulness meditation; a Carnegie Mellon University study found that even 25 minutes a day for three days in a row can reduce stress and build resilience. Doing yoga also helps. A Queen’s University study found it can even help us view the world in a less negative, less threatening way, which can be a huge benefit for those with mental health disorders.


Making lifestyle changes in support of your sleep is well worth the effort. Poor sleep has multiple negatives: Studies show fatigue makes it harder to choose healthy foods, it’s been linked to obesity and cell damage, and it can make mental illness symptoms worse. Sleep deprivation has been shown, for example, to trigger schizophrenia symptoms. Consistently good sleep, on the other hand, can help keep stress at bay, as well as boost mood, protect the brain, and give us the energy we need to deal with all that life throws at us.


These are only a few of the steps we can take to help boost better mental health. And various others may work better but these are the core ones that need the most attention to help improve our well-being. So try them, you’ll even be surprised that simple changes such as diet and sleep can go a long way.